By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Obama, Syria and presidential incompetence

I think attacking Syria is a bad idea. But what I really don’t understand is the incompetence the Obama administration has shown. It seems to me that quick retaliation in the form of a few cruise missiles might have had some deterrent effect (or not), and it’s the sort of thing presidents do on a fairly regular basis without going to Congress.

So now we’re in the midst of an all-out congressional debate over whether to take action that is supposed to be fairly limited. I don’t blame people for worrying this is going to be another Afghanistan or Iraq, because that’s how the White House is treating it.

And I find myself in the position of not wanting to see us do anything but at the same time hoping the resolution passes so that Obama isn’t completely neutered for the next three years. What a mess.

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  1. BP Myers

    Hard to add anything, except to say I appreciate the White House recognizing that lobbing cruise missiles at a sovereign nation is indeed an act of war, which is Congress rightful purview. It’s amusing to watch individual congressmen whine about having to decide something they were, in fact, elected to decide. Finally, I don’t recall any president in my lifetime (if ever) putting his prestige on the line like this. If he loses, he is a lame duck for the rest of his term. If he loses and lobs cruise missiles anyway, I predict impeachment proceedings. But if he wins, then the sky is the limit for the remainder of his term.

  2. OBAMA was JUST neutered by Putin… in ALL of their globally-viewed, though individualized ‘meaningfulness’. Obama-rama is now a toasted-lame-duck! Quack, quack!

  3. BP Myers

    @Ken said: “OBAMA was JUST neutered by Putin…”

    Umm . . . if what I’m hearing is correct, that Putin has offered to step in and safeguard the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile, ensuring they will no longer be used against civilians (or anybody) and further, nobody will die by a U.S. cruise missile . . . how is that anything but a victory for Obama? How isn’t that anything but a victory for the civilized world?

    Think in that scenario, the only losers are John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and the rest of the warmongers.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: A victory for Obama? Sounds like Putin is going to pull Obama’s nuts out of the fire, look them over for a while and hand them to him. A victory for the world, I’d say, and if Obama can spin it as a victory for him, I’m fine with that. But let’s not kid ourselves.

  4. I wrote a column last June as to why intervention was a bad idea and called it ‘Scorpions in Bottles’. Like you, DK, I think intervention is a bad idea. I overheard an interesting comment from 2 very progressive ladies chatting in a computer hot spot over the weekend about the whole issue of using gas – one lady asked why we were going to drop bombs to kill a bunch of people to retaliate for a bunch of other people killed a different way in a different way.

    I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for Obama who has largely painted himself into this corner. Whenever public debate or support for his priorities took a bad term, he went on a speaking tour to trash Congress so to wonder why they want better details from him in advance of the vote is pretty disingenuous. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the perception in advance, however flawed or incomplete, was that there WAS a good side – Iraqi people vs. sadistic dictator, Afghans vs. Al Qaeda. In Syria, there hasn’t even been a perceived ‘good’ side from the get-go.

  5. BP Myers

    @Dan: How do you define victory? Putin would have done nothing had not Obama done what he’d done. Now, it appears there may be a peaceful (for us) way out of this mess. Perhaps I’m misreading you, however it seems if you’d had your way, Obama would have already launched a few missiles (“the sort of thing presidents do”) and there’s be a lot more dead Syrians. Personally, I prefer this.

    (Caveat: We may be getting way ahead of ourselves on what Putin has said he will do, however if he’ll guarantee no more chemical weapons strikes, then it’s win-win for everybody, and the Syrians can go on having their lovely civil war.)

  6. @BP Myers, i.e, ‘How isn’t that anything but a victory for the civilized world?’ AGREED… GO WITH IT… for a brief spell of ‘reality’! If Putin pulls it off… and pulls Obama’s ‘nuts-out-of-the-fire’; PERFECT! NOW let’s move on… find a way to MANAGE THE TRIBES! Putin is a crook, Obama is way in over his international-diplomacy head, the Middle-East is a cross between civil war, tribal-war, religious war AND no-man’s-land-but-of-the-hired-mercenary world! Welcome aboard! There is very much an asynchronous solution to what we read and are participating in for the Middle-East. It will take a VERY UNIQUE individual, or collective thought, to smother the region with a solution! I’m optimistic, but it is coming! As painful as we orchestrate the moment — Taliban, extremist Muslims, ‘THE Brotherhood, al-Gaeda (?) the world is shutting down their oxygen.

  7. BP Myers

    (PS: It’s Assad’s nuts Putin may have pulled out of the fire, not Obama’s.)

  8. Mike Rice

    “Obama, Syria and presidential incompetence.” What a mess. Spot on, Dan.

  9. Aaron Read

    If there’s one thing everyone should know by now, it’s that past performance has zero correlation with future events. What Obama said or did yesterday…or what was done to him by Congress…has no bearing on today what he says or does today, nor what Congress does to him today.

    Similarly, what he says or does today, or what Congress says or does today, has zero bearing on what is said or done tomorrow.

    Nobody should ever make the mistake of assuming that the American electorate has a memory.

  10. Aaron – the electorate may not, but Congress might.

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